Letter to the Editor from Marietta, GA
Published: June 2, 2005
To the Editor:
I am still trying to figure out the purpose of last week’s headline story titled “Chant, Sacred Classics Reverberate Again in Parishes” (The Georgia Bulletin, May 19). Sure, it was wonderful that the staff writer mentioned some of the choir directors and their repertoire done at liturgy. Sure, it’s always nice to “hear the pure sounds of the pipe organ envelope the worship space…as the choir sings harmony based on Gregorian chant.” In a time when the church appears to be returning to more traditional practices that sometimes appear to be even pre-Vatican II, one has to question the real motive of such an article.
The purpose of any liturgical music, which is music composed for our public worship, is to enliven and draw sung response from the assembly. Can classical pieces like Mozart’s “Gloria” do this? Of course not. Can Latin chant do this? Not really. Have you ever heard a congregation try to sing the “Pange Lingua” lately? Our music and prayers need to be in the vernacular or language of the people.
As a member of the National Composers Forum, a group of Catholic composers who meet annually to discuss current church music issues, I know of concerns about a move to limit American church music to 500 hymns. These songs would be mandated by Rome and compiled in a standard hymnal for use across the U.S. This is quite troubling when you have incredible contemporary composers such as Atlanta’s Ed Bolduc and Paul Tate who are nationally published. Their music joins other modern-day liturgical composers who are producing excellent music and text to inspire and raise the voice of the assembly in song. These songs encourage strong communal response, are reverent, and serve their purpose well.
Contemporary song needs to be a part of every parish celebration. For more than 40 years now, composers have made great strides when it comes to providing us with appropriate music. To abandon this repertoire would be sad. We cannot let the conservative element of any parish take over and dictate classical and Latin-based music for worship. Our sung prayer would take a dangerous turn for the worse.
In several weeks, musicians from around the country will gather once again for the National Pastoral Musicians Convention, held this year in Milwaukee. Many musicians from this diocese will be in attendance. It’s my hope that The Georgia Bulletin will give this important gathering a voice in a future article.
Jack Louden, Marietta
Editor’s note: Further articles on music and the church are planned for upcoming issues of The Georgia Bulletin.